Tag: Cornish Produce

“Buy less but buy better” is a phrase that’s become increasingly common and important in the world of fashion, but we think that it’s just as relevant to the meat that we eat. It’s arguably better for you and the

“Buy less but buy better” is a phrase that has become increasingly common and important in the world of fashion, but we think that it is just as relevant to the meat that we eat. It is arguably better for you and the planet if we reduce how much we eat in the western world, and make sure that the meat that we do eat is high quality, high welfare and ideally farmed using regenerative practices. Homage To The Bovine’s product is a great example of this; beef from ex-dairy cows who are “put out to pasture” on well managed grassland, creating an incredible product and adding value, reducing waste, and honouring the animals that they farm.

We’ve worked with Debs and Nathan Pryor and their team before, celebrating their produce at dedicated feast nights, we will be teaming up even more this year when they take up a residency at Origin Coffee’s Roastery HQ in Porthleven and at a series of summer pop-up feasts in sight of their farm at Stithians Lake.

Ahead of all of that, we caught up with Debs one windy and rainy day this winter to find out more about how they came upon the idea of retired-dairy beef and the ethos behind Homage To The Bovine.

ex dairy beef cows at homage to the bovine in cornwall

We have a dairy herd that has been in Nathan’s family for two generations before us. He came back from university in 2002 and his Father had forty cows. Now there are five hundred. He’s built a large dairy herd and they are all born and raised on these two farms. We get to see the whole process. We see them born, they come onto the herd, they milk for up to twelve years. Once their milk yield is dropping off, normally they would trot along to the abattoir and they’d be a cull cow – just finished with.  Instead, we now give our cows a retirement, and they go into our retired dairy beef herd.  

Homage To The Bovine came about because Joel, my eldest son who is 14, is a bit of a carnivore. At the start of lockdown I was looking for a butchery course for him. Because we have the dairy herd I started googling dairy beef, local butchery courses, and so on, but I couldn’t find any. I did find one in Essex, a guy called Thomas Joseph. Tom has his own hanging rooms and his own butchery, it goes into various high end restaurants and directly to the public. That is how we stumbled onto it.  Then we realised that we had the grass land that enabled our herd to rest and fatten, and we thought why not just try it?

We sent half of our first batch up to him to his ager and left it up there for forty days… he came back with it that August as he was down in Cornwall on holiday, and he said it was extremely good and that he would like to buy some! We knew we were onto something, and figured we had nothing to lose.

butchering ex-dairy homage to the bovine beef
Barney our Head Butcher.

How We Farm

The farm was originally mixed dairy and beef, but when Nathan came home and took over the family farm and got more serious on the commercial side of it, he implemented New Zealand style farming which is spring calving in a block, everything gets managed as a herd so you don’t have calves popping out in August.  If you had 500 cows calving here and there and everywhere it’d be absolute chaos. It is a very natural existence because everything comes from pasture. They do get buffer fed in the winter when it is extremely wet, but the cheapest and best way is to feed them all off pasture as much as possible. Nathan is really keen on getting the grassland just right, he is more of a grassland farmer than a cattle farmer.  The grass is the backbone of his business.  Nathan is a grassland biologist, really, always monitoring his seeds, covers, leys… he knows about worms.

The dairy beef just runs alongside the dairy herd, they’ll go to peripheral parts of the farm where we can monitor them but leave them for three or four days, then just move them on to fresh pasture. They’re not monitored as intensively which is great for us because there are blocks everywhere that we rent, we can just leave them there and check them every few days.

The retirement is a rest for at least 18 months from last calving. They’ll calve in February or March, they’ll milk that season, and then if they come to the end of their dairy life they’ll then go out to pasture and get rested on grassland for 18 months.

The grass is the fundamental backbone of our business. You can spot our fields from others – it is almost flourescent. Dairying is all about pasture management, because that is the cheapest and best food source for a cow. Anybody that cannot grow grass will be buying in silage or concentrates to buffer feed their animals. Our cows are milked twice in one day and then once the next. It puts less pressure on them, and it is better for staff and costs less because we’re not firing up the milking parlour twice a day and working silly hours.

The biggest part of our farm income is from liquid milk – that is the core of our business. Homage to the Bovine beef is a spin-off, but it is good in terms of educating consumers and it is an excellent product because of the age. Normal shop-bought beef would usually be under 30 months old.

Cows that go into the abattoir that are over 30 month old have to have their spinal columns removed and that adds another layer of cost.  Commercial producers do not want this expense, so to maximise profits they send their animals to slaughter before they reach that age.  When a cow is older the fat spreads through their whole body. They have a supreme deep beefy flavour. The beef is a dark, deep red with great marbling. Putting ordinary supermarket beef against ex-dairy beef is like putting a £5 bottle of wine alongside an expensive port; it is the age that makes the difference in flavour.  Producers will not finish  beef for 12 years. Ours is hung on the bone for 28 days before being cut.

Supermarkets often “age” beef in the vacuum pack, rushing the product through because it’s more cost effective for them. They don’t want to hold it in a chiller for that long because of the cost,  and they don’t have enough space for the sort of volumes they deal with. Ours is an artisan product.

butchering ex-dairy homage to the bovine beef
Skills on the knives in the butchery

Farming And The Environment

Right now, fertiliser prices have gone through the roof like all fuels, and farmers are having to be much more extensive in their grazing. We rent as much land as we can so that we are not putting as much pressure on the fields and do not have to put on as much fertiliser, because we don’t want to and it is just not cost effective. The leys (the mix of plants in the fields) will include clover for fixing nitrogen.  We keep permanent pasture and manage it to get the most from the land without damaging it. Cows spread their own poo, the worms are doing their thing. If the cows chew the grass down to a low level it will shoot and start again, but if you leave the cows in too long and let the cows chew it too low it damages the roots, which is why we move ours frequently and spread them out.  

dairy cows grazing pasture at homage to the bovine in cornwall

Environmentally, when you think about the dairy industry you have to go beyond where that milk has come from – how the cow is fed and what it is doing. Most liquid milk producers try to get 11-12,000 litres of milk per year per animal, whereas ours produce just 4,000. They are compact animals, Jersey cross Friesians for a richer milk – because we sell our milk based on protein and fat content to be used to make butter and cream, rather than selling by volume. Milk sold by volume is just more of a white water, and those animals do not have such a nice life. You do not know anything about that when you are buying your two liters of milk for a pound from the supermarket.  Milk is undervalued; it is cheaper than premium bottled water.  If we could be a bit more like France, where the supermarkets are stocked from within that region, then we could start to see more benefits for everyone and everything involved.  Supermarkets push the price down and until consumers start to shop outside of supermarkets and asking questions,  it’s at the the cost of taste and quality because those are the only things that can give – and that includes animal welfare too. We do not work like that and so we are happy to talk openly about what we do.  People are pushing on prices and supply chain systems that are unsustainable. It is easy to get into the routine of ordering online and having something delivered, but as a result many consumers have lost touch with where their food has come from and how good their food could taste.

dairy cow at homage to the bovine in cornwall

How To Enjoy Ex-Dairy Beef

I like a simple medium pan-fried steak!   It depends what cut you are dealing with though. Chefs love the fillet and steaks but some are really good at taking the other lower cost cuts too, like topside or shin, because they can use them for ragus and so on. Adam Handling at The Ugly Butterfly in Carbis Bay uses our beef in his restaurant and has just obtained a Michelin star. He started buying select cuts from us for his restaurant because of their sustainable ethos and trying to close the gap and buying local. To be associated with him has been huge for us really, and it has given a lot of people a lot of confidence in our product.

Our retired dairy beef does not need to be prepared or cooked any differently to any other beef, but the key is not to over cook it. The grain is looser in our beef, so you have to be aware that it is a bit different to a standard steak, but essentially you can enjoy it just the same way –  only there is more flavour and you have the knowledge of knowing exactly where it has come from and how it has been raised and that has got to be worth something.

homage to the bovine ex-dairy beef

You can find out more about Nathan and Debs’ ex-dairy beef at www.homagetothebovine.co.uk

We’ll be joining them for some pop-up feast nights this summer, but until then you can catch them at the Origin Coffee Roastery at Methleigh Bottoms, Porthleven between 5-8pm every Saturday through the summer where they’ll be serving up their Txuleta burgers and beef dripping chips.

Saffron buns are a traditional Cornish teatime treat – a rich yeast bun not dissimilar to a teacake, only better! Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight, so how did it end up being a key ingredient in Cornish baking? Spices such as saffron were often landed in Cornwall, both legally and illegally, with records showing that it was once traded with the Phoenicians for tin and copper. The county’s mild maritime climate also made it one of the few places in the UK where the crocus flowers that produce saffron could be grown commercially. It’s been a couple of centuries since saffron was produced commercially in Cornwall, however one farm is now growing it here on the Roseland Peninsula. With such ready access to saffron, it was baked into revel buns on special occasions with so much being used that it gave the buns a characteristic yellow colour. For the past hundred years it’s been prohibitively expensive to use that much saffron, so many bakers used food colourings to turn their buns yellow. This recipe that I recently baked for Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream uses a decent pinch of saffron and clotted cream to create a rich, spiced, teatime treat. Enjoy!

cornish saffron buns with clotted cream


300ml whole milk
Large pinch of saffron
50g Rodda’s clotted cream, melted
2 tsp mixed spice
550g strong bread flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
80g caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
100g sultanas/currants
4-tablespoons of milk
For the glaze:
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons of water


Gently heat the milk with the saffron in a small pan until it’s steaming. Add clotted cream to the saffron-infused milk and return to a low heat for 2-3 minutes. Gently whisk until melted and combined.

Take the mixture of the heat and allow to cool until it is warm to the touch

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt, spices, sugar, and yeast.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk. Mix and bring together into a soft dough. Knead on a slow speed in a free-standing mixer with the dough hook attached for 7-10 minutes, or slap and fold a few times to bring it together. After 5 minutes, incorporate the currants. To check if the dough is ready, when the dough is touched it should bounce back.

Cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back the dough and turn out onto a floured surface and knead briefly.

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions to make buns and place on a lined baking sheet.

Cover the buns and leave to prove again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas mark 6. Then brush the top of the buns with a little milk and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

Once the buns have baked, its time to make the glaze. To make the glaze – put 50g of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and then boil for 1 minute. Then brush the mixture over the warm buns and transfer them to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Slice in half and enjoy the buns fresh or toasted, spread with more clotted cream.

If you’d like to get stuck into more traditional Cornish bakes and dishes, why not join me for a Cornwall in a Day cookery course?

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